What IS the minimum amount of exercise you can get away with?
Here’s the thing: we all know we should be darkening the door of the gym three times a week and working our ‘abs’, but do we want to? Hell no. The mere thought makes us want to go raid the Easter egg stash and spend a couple of happy hours on the couch watching funny YouTube cat videos.
But the annoying fact is, when you’re in your 50s you need to be doing some kind of regular movement. Even small amounts can improve energy levels, sleep quality and your mood. “It can also build lean tissue and – most importantly in your 50s – mean more pain-free movement,” says Sydney-based personal trainer Rebecca Rule.
“We need to be increasing our type II muscle fibres, which we need for power, strength and balance. That’s hugely important as we age,” she adds. “Of course, get the all-clear from your doctor before starting anything.”
The easy way out
Doing exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise is a great way to get started if you’re new to working out or feel you should start again after a long break, illness or injury.
To do this, says Rule, you can up the ante on your incidental movement, with simple gym-free exercises such as a game of touch footy, walking the dog, using the stairs instead of the lift and making some things a habit – like getting up to walk around every time you take a phone call on your mobile. “Incidental movement also helps with calorie control and burning energy,” she adds.
The 10,000 step challenge
But what about if you need a goal or you won’t do it? If you’re someone who’s sick of spending your days feeling guilt-tripped by the pair of trainers lying expectantly by the front door? What’s the least amount of exercise you can get away with?
“Interesting question,” laughs Rule, “because it’s relative. What’s the least amount of exercise someone who’s 30kg overweight can get away with? Or for someone who has quite a good fitness level or does more incidental movement? It’s different for each person but the absolute least amount we should all be aiming towards is 10,000 steps a day. That’s quite a lot of movement. But that’s the goal to achieve.”
Why not buddy up? Exercising with a friend or your partner can help motivate you to keep active
Your dining room can double as a gym
It’s true – weight-based training doesn’t have to happen in the gym, says Rule. “You can do step-ups on your back porch, push-ups against your dining room table, tricep dips on a chair. These body-weight exercises use both muscles and joints, burn lots of calories and help to build your base strength. In 20 minutes, you might do 15 push-ups, 15 step-ups, 15 lunges, a plank. You could work towards 4-5 rounds.”
And if you’re reading this thinking, ‘What the HELL is a plank?’ then don’t despair.
“You can Google exercises online to see how they’re done, but you will save a lot of time and get faster results if you hire a trainer,” says Rule. “A trainer can come to your house, set up a program for you and show you how to do things correctly.”
More bang for your workout buck
What if we told you that you could get a great workout done in 10 minutes’ flat? With high intensity interval training (HIIT), it’s easy. Well, not easy – poor choice of words – but it is the smarter way of working out if you want to get it done and dusted fast and whittle your waistline at the same time.
“If you’ve built a good cardiovascular and strength base, HIIT is the next step – this involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by a longer rest period,” says Rule. “So a quick 10 minute HIIT session might involve 15 seconds of running on the spot then a 45 second break where you walk. That takes 1 minute and you might do it 10 times. Bingo – workout done. You can increase the intensity as you get fitter.”
Ultimate goal for the anti-exerciser? “If you can work your way up to doing some strength training and interval training three times a week, that would be life changing,” says Rule.
And, we’re sure, make you feel much less guilty about popping another Easter egg.
How much exercise do you really do each week?